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PANASONIC WV-BP310 and WV-BP510 Monochrome Cameras

 

WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...

Monochrome surveillance cameras have tended to be overshadowed by developments in colour camera technology and in some applications they have become marginalised. Nevertheless Panasonic clearly believe thereís plenty of life left in the old dogs yet, moreover there are still plenty of situations where they are the only logical choice. Very low light conditions are a case in point, where colour cameras can be inappropriate or unsuitable.

 

CCTV camera manufacturers tend to concentrate much of their development work on colour cameras but Panasonic have wisely decided that performance and advanced exposure facilities are equally important on black and white cameras. From the outside the WV-BP310 and WV-B510 series cameras look quite similar, indeed, the case, lens mount and 440k pixel CCD image sensors (giving a low-light sensitivity in the order of 0.08 lux are virtually identical), but they are pitched at different sectors of the market.

 

The WV-BP310 is the simpler of the two, intended for routine installations with reasonably predictable and straightforward lighting conditions. There are three basic versions: the BP310 is mains powered; the BP312 and BP314 are line-powered, requiring 12 volt DC and 24 volt AC feeds respectively. The cameras are housed in alloy cases measuring 67 x 65 x 123mm, up front thereís a sturdy C/CS mounting collar with simple back-focus adjustment. A threaded mounting plate can be fitted to the top or bottom of the case. On the side thereís a standard 4-pin socket for an auto-iris lens (DC or video control). On the back panel thereís two BNC sockets, for the composite video output and external genlock input. A miniature 5-way DIP switch selects AGC on/off, line-lock or internal synchronisation, Electronic Light Control or ELC (high-speed shutter for fixed-iris lenses), DC or video control for auto iris lens, and hi-Z or 75 ohm impedance. The only other adjustments are presets for vertical phase and ALC level, accessed through a pair of covered holes on the back panel.

 

The quality of construction is very high. The layout is slightly unusual, with the video processing circuitry, on a single densely-populated PCB, located at the bottom of the case. The top half is taken up by the mains power supply; this almost helps assists with heat dissipation and should help prolong the life of the electronic components.

 

The WV-BP510 is a mains-powered camera, a second variant (WV-BP514) is available, that can be powered from a 24 volt AC supply. The 510/514 is designed to cope with difficult situations and incorporates a number of advanced digital processing facilities. Mechanically itís the almost same as the BP310, but instead of the DIP switch on the back panel thereís a cross-shaped bank of five tiny buttons. These are used to select and enable options presented by the cameraís menu-driven on-screen display system. The main menu covers the following functions: setting and displaying camera ID (up to 16 characters) ; ALC/ELC (auto/fixed iris operation) and backlight compensation; high-speed shutter (8 speeds, up to 1/10,000 th sec); AGC on/off; gain up); internal or external synchronisation; wide/normal dynamic range; motion detector; plus aperture and pedestal  levels.

 

Backlight compensation and motion detection sub-menus allow the installer to define screen areas; when selected  the display is divided up into a grid of 48 squares (8 x 6), which can be toggled on or off. In the case of the backlight compensation facility this allows the installer or user to mask out brightly-lit areas. The motion detector grid operates on a similar principle, with the grid used to define the area of activity, sensitivity is adjustable. When movement is detected the camera sends an alarm signal down the video cable. This can be used to trigger a VCR, via a WV-RM70 remote camera controller, which can also be used to set up the BP510ís digital functions.

 

The wide dynamic range mode is useful for balancing images that contains excessively light and dark areas. The electronic gain-up facility increases low-light sensitivity by a factor of x32, by reducing the image sensor refresh rate. Effectively this is a slow-speed shutter, that varies from 1/25th to 1/1.6 th sec; the speed can be fixed, or the camera can be programmed to respond automatically to very low-light situations. Like its stablemate, the BP510 can be used with both fixed and auto iris lens, the latter can be either DC or video controlled.

 

OPERATION

Both cameras can accommodate a wide range of lenses, to suite a variety of operating requirements. They are relatively easy to set up and use, more so in the case of the BP310 as it has only a limited range of functions. The buttons controlling the on-screen display on the BP510 are a little fiddly, and they could be awkward to use, particularly if the camera is mounted in an inaccessible location. However, under normal circumstance theyíll only be needed once, during the initial set-up procedure. Where access is severely restricted itís possible to align the camera using the RM70 remote controller.

 

The backlight compensation and motion detector systems are reasonably easy to set-up, though again the on-board controls do slow things down, and setting up a complicated mask or activity grid could prove quite time-consuming.

 

PERFORMANCE

In good natural light (with the exposure systems on neutral settings) both cameras perform well, with similar resolution (just over 550-lines), and exceptionally low noise levels. The BP310 produces a clear, well-defined image with a useful dynamic range. Low-light sensitivity is good, and the auto exposure systems are responsive, though it is better suited to relatively stable lighting conditions.

 

The BP510 is superbly well-equipped to deal with challenging situations, where there are wide variations in lighting, either within the scene, or overall, throughout the course of the day. The backlight compensation facility is a key feature, that could prove indispensable where the choice of camera angle would otherwise be limited or compromised by bright lights. The motion detection facility is most impressive, though it does depend on suitable interface circuitry, to activate an alarm or recording equipment.   

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

Two highly proficient cameras, that convincingly prove black and white cameras can be every bit as sophisticated as their colour counterparts, moreover they can operate in situations where colour cameras would be ineffective or uneconomical.

 

PRODUCT ASSESSMENT                  BP310/510

Design and design features                   8/9

Circuitry and components                       9/9

Ease of installation and wiring         9/8    

Range and variety of functions                8/9   

Accompanying instructions                        8/8          

Technical advice and backup            9/9       

Value for money                              8/8                            

 

 

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R.Maybury 1996 0707

 

 


 

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